1.1 Background of the Study
The low level of food production in Nigeria has been closely linked with such factors as low soil fertility level, use of unimproved crop varieties, as well as inefficiency in the use of farming resources (Olagoke, 1990; Ojo, 2003). This also applies to livestock production including piggery. Inefficiency in resource use comes from many sources like low level of education, inexperience, environmental constraints, etc. This affects productivity and waste generation in agriculture. Agricultural production can be increased either through an efficient use of traditional technology and practices, or through the introduction of a package of improved technologies like fertilizers, improved seeds and cultural practices provided that no production gains are possible through better use of the traditional practices (Arega, 2002).
In Nigeria, food production has not increased at the rate that can meet the increasing population. While food production increases at the rate of 2.5%, food demand increases at the rate of more than 3.5% due to high rate of population growth of 2.83% (FOS, 1996). Apart from Nigerian agriculture not meeting up in its food production, its greatest problem is that of inadequate animal protein in the diets of a large proportion of the population (FMAWRRD, 1988). Animal protein is essential in human nutrition because of its biological significance. Pork if produced economically, can be an invaluable source of protein, vitamins, minerals and energy for large segment of the human population especially in developing countries (Pond and Maner, 1974).
In realization of the importance of animal protein, the successive governments in Nigeria have been pursuing programmes at national, state and community levels to boost the mass production of livestock products to ensure the attainment of the FAO recommended 35g per caput of animal protein per day. Some of these programmes include: the Farm Settlement Schemes, Agricultural Development Project (ADPs), Better Life Programme, Micro-credit Scheme for Livestock and lately UNDP is supporting the establishment of Livestock Parent/Foundation stock at community level in Nigeria (Ojo, 2003).
The pig industry can be a very reliable one due to certain attributes of pigs and the Nigeria production systems. Pigs have a high survival rate and also have the ability to utilize a host of agro-industrial bye-products and crop residues with little or no processing and at minimal cost (Ter Meulen and El-Harith, 1985 in Adesehinwa, Makinde & Oladele, 2003). The pig population in Nigeria has shown in recent years a noticeable increase, from nearly 2 million pigs in 1984 to 7 million in 1997. Most of these pigs are owned by smallholders. Pig production contributed highly to food security of the low-income rural and peri-urban population. In fact, pork remains the cheapest source of meat in Nigeria (FAO, 1988 in Ajala, Adesehinwa & Mohammed, 2007). Due to acute shortage of animal protein in the diets of the average Nigerian, there is need to increase the production of domestic animals, which are conventional sources of animal protein (Ajala et al.,2007). Of all the farm animals, pig represents one of the fastest ways of increasing animal protein, since they grow at a faster rate, reaching a slaughter weight of 80 to 90kg in about 7 to 8 months; and very prolific, realizing 20 to 30 piglets from 2 to 2½ litters per year (Adesehinwa et al., 2003).
The importance of pigs in the livestock industry in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized. Although pigs are few in comparism to other livestock, they display a unique ability to survive and adapt in areas where they are found. Thus, pig is not only a source of protein, it also serves as investment alternative and source of additional income especially among women. (Ajala et al, 2007). Religious consideration may make pig keeping unacceptable in certain places and the possibility of transfer of disease and parasites to the human population may make extensive pig keeping unwise. (Holness, 1991). However, despite the Islamic religious taboos against pigs, some Muslims still engage in pig farming due to their educational status. Thus, the notion that Muslims do not rear pig may no longer be true (Adesehinwa et al, 2003)